Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi blogger – recently emigrated to America, if I recall correctly – has written about his recent experience in an American airport. He turned up to the airport in a t-shirt that read “we will not be silent” in both English and Arabic. Maybe it was a both brave and stupid act, but I applaud him for standing up to the repression of free speech under the current American administration. He was asked to take the shirt off, but all his luggage was checked in and he had nothing to change into. Eventually they bought him another t-shirt to wear.
Then I once again asked the three of them : “How come you are asking me to change my t-shirt? Isn’t this my constitutional right to wear it? I am ready to change it if you tell me why I should. Do you have an order against Arabic t-shirts? Is there such a law against Arabic script?” so inspector Harris answered “you can’t wear a t-shirt with Arabic script and come to an airport. It is like wearing a t-shirt that reads “I am a robber” and going to a bank”.
Like the case of the guys in Malaga, this appears to be a case of other passengers being scared by anything out of the ordinary, any “furriner” is automatically going to kill your kids and eat them, and rape your wife. What adds to the bullshit is the attitude of the security guy who said that the t-shirt they bought for him shouldn’t say “I love NY” as that would be going from one extreme to the other, as if arabic writing exposes the presence of hatred of a city.
If you don’t recall, it should be mentioned that the 9/11 terrorists wore ordinary western-style clothes. Why would a terrorist put his or her mission in jeopardy by wearing conspicuous clothes? In fact the screening system in airports is a means for terrorists to hone the attack method, by finding out what sort of people are subject to fewer security checks, and using that as a model.
Raed is pursuing the matter through freedom of speech and civil liberties groups, and someone has printed and is selling (in America) a series of shirts with the slogan “I am not a terrorist” in arabic. If I could find one locally, I would wear it with pride. In fact, I’d like to see a national free speech day where we all came to work or school with shirts bearing slogans in arabic 🙂